When I began my counseling career, I was actually a bit terrified to counsel children. I'm an only child and was nearly the youngest amongst my cousins on both sides. My best friends were also only children, so none of us had younger siblings to interact with. I had lived, worked, paid my bills, put myself though college, and still... tiny people made me nervous.
I delved deeper into studying child psychology in grad school. Soon, I had worked with domestic violence victims for a while, and I did counsel a few kids, but my focus was on adults. Eventually, I moved on to work with adults who had dual diagnoses of addiction and mental illness. My career was on a path to become more marketing and community-outreach-oriented, but I knew I wanted those 3000 hours of client experience to become a licensed therapist. (Your employer's circumstances have to be just right in order to become licensed, and, while I loved helping people overcome addiction, I wasn't in a job that could get me licensed.)
It just so happened that there was a job --a perfect job-- where I could learn from a group of women I really looked up to (and still do). When I got the call about that job, the position was with that dreaded population... kids. Oh, boy! I had a fleeting impulse to run.
I had little to no confidence when I started. I was terrified. But I didn't realize how much I already knew. I had been so afraid that I wouldn't know enough that I ended up actually working harder and studying child psychology more than I realized.
Like a lightning strike, I remembered...wait, I DID have experience with kids. A lot, actually!
Isn't it funny how we discount our own knowledge and experience and capabilities when we are afraid?
Once I began my new job, I remembered the early childhood education program I volunteered for in high school, the children's theatre work I did, the multitude of classes I had taken, and all the kids I had babysat. I looked in my bookshelf and saw all the books on baby development, adolescence, and everything in-between that I had poured over for the previous ten years. And, I had an incredibly experienced clinician to help, and a team of childhood trauma specialists by my side. They told me, "You've got this."
Eventually, I realized they might be on to something. (Thank you, colleagues, if you are reading this.)
Fear keeps us from seeing how capable we are. We put on tunnel vision and our path narrows.
Three and a half years later, I had worked with an incredible amount of children, teens, and their parents. And I decided that those years were essential for me to counsel adults.
Yeah, you read that right. Adults.
Don't we spend so much of our adult lives healing from our childhood? Even the best childhoods are imperfect, and we can all make our lives better by looking deeper (in a comfortable and safe way). And here's what is downright miraculous: We can heal. We really can. We can heal from all the things if we have the right understanding and the right information.
When we are kids, we build ideas about the world and ourselves with greatly limited experience and information. We build lasting thought patterns before our brain is even formed!
It's little wonder then, that some of our ideas are wrong. Sometimes, we know a thought is negative or that a behavior is childish or unhealthy, but we still find ourselves in the same old patterns. So why not open up a dialogue with that inner child? Why not heal that child now? It's clear that she or he is still in there, somewhere.
In my story, not only did I practice my education in working with children and teens, I also learned to listen to my own inner child. My inner child was unsure and afraid to try a new thing. But time had changed things. I had grown. I was capable. Chances are, you are, too.
As adults, we have to feel safe enough to first question those fears before we can change them. That's where counseling helps. If you think you can't change, or if you think you can't have a better life-- that's fear talking. If you can't even think about parts of the past, or possibilities for the future-- even if you have struggled in the past-- new, evidence-based treatments and approaches to healing are developed every day.
You are capable. You are strong. You can heal and grow. You don't have to see how you will do it, you just have to know that you CAN. And if you are breathing and reading this, the personal growth you hope for is very possible.